9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Survival of the Fittest,
This review is from: Animal Kingdom (DVD)
ANIMAL KINGDOM is tough little film from Australia, well written and directed by David Michôd, and acted by a fine ensemble cast of actors. It is a frightening tale of crime and corruption, of one family of criminal sociopaths both pitted against and partnered by the police in Melbourne, Australia. Though the film wanders times, altering past and present in a manner that proves confusing to the whole, the impact in the end is stunning.
Joshua "J" Cody (James Frecheville) narrates the film and we first meet this young 17-year-old sitting beside his mother who has just died from an overdose of heroin. In a most detached way he calls his maternal grandmother Smurf (Jacki Weaver) and asks if she remembers him: his mother has been estranged from her family for years. Smurf welcomes his call and complies with his desire to move to her home. And what a home she runs! Smurf's sons are sociopathic criminals on the run from the law (but also involved with the law in the illegal sale of drugs with bad cops). The worst offender is Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) who is the brains behind the crimes the family commits: he is also on medication for his mental challenge. The other two brothers are drug-addled Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and the strange very young Darren (Luke Ford). Pope's best friend in crime is the rather tender Baz (Joel Edgerton) with whom J can relate. J is thus thrust into the family he has not known and becomes reluctantly involved with the criminal shenanigans and killings of Smurf's boys. Smurf has a bizarre relationship with her 'gang' of sons, seemingly kind and protective but with a surprising evil side of her own. As the story progresses J is caught between the family and the police - in the form of Investigator Leckie (Guy Pearce, in another memorable role) - and the story deals with how this contrasting set of circumstances molds the young J.
There isn't a weak link in the cast and after viewing the film it is understandable why Jacki Weaver was nominated for an Oscar. This is a different sort of crime drama and the flavor of the Australian setting adds immeasurably to the mood. Grady Harp, March 11